There was much manœuvring during the days that followed, and many attacks were delivered in one place or another, for the enemy, having a preponderance of numbers, set about harassing the Roman forces in many places, with the expectation that they would prove unequal to all the demands that were made upon them;
at the same time that they were besieging the camp, a part of their army was sent
to devastate the Roman fields and to attack the City itself, should an opportunity offer.
Lucius Valerius was left to defend the City, while the consul [p. 17]
Postumius was sent out to protect the frontier from1
pillage. There was no relaxation anywhere of vigilance or effort; watches were set in the City, outposts were established before the gates, and troops were posted on the walls; and, as was necessary in the midst of such confusion, the courts were suspended for several days.
In camp meanwhile the consul Furius, having begun by submitting tamely to the blockade, caught the Aequi off their guard, and made a sortie by the decuman gate.2
He might have pursued the enemy, but stopped for fear the camp might be assailed from the opposite quarter.
The lieutenant Furius, a brother of the consul, was carried a good way off by his charge, nor did he observe, in the ardour of pursuit, either that his friends were retiring or that the enemy were moving up to attack him in the rear. His retreat was thus cut off, and after repeated but unsuccessful attempts to force his way back to the camp, he perished, fighting bravely.
The consul too, upon learning that his brother was surrounded, set his face towards the battle and plunged into the midst of the mellay, with more rashness than prudence; for he received a wound, and was barely rescued by the men about him.
This misfortune dismayed his own troops and quickened the courage of the enemy, who were so inspirited by the death of the lieutenant and the wounding of the consul that from that moment no force could withstand them, and the Romans were driven into their camp and again besieged, being no match for their opponents either in confidence or strength. The very existence of the army would have been imperilled, had not Titus Quinctius come up with the foreign troops, the Latins and Hernici.
He found the Aequi intent on the Roman camp, and3
truculently displaying the head of the lieutenant. Attacking them in the rear, while the besieged, in answer to a signal he had given them from afar, were making a sally from the camp, he intercepted a large body of them.
There was less carnage but a more headlong rout in the case of the Aequi who were in Roman territory. These men were dispersed and collecting booty when they were attacked by Postumius at several points where he had opportunely stationed troops.
The pillagers, fleeing in a disordered crowd, fell in with Quinctius, who was returning from his victory with the wounded consul; whereupon the consular army splendidly avenged the consul's wound and the slaughter of the lieutenant and his cohorts. Heavy losses were inflicted and sustained on both sides at that time.
It is hard to make a trustworthy statement, in a matter of such antiquity, as to just how many fought and how many fell;
yet Valerius Antias ventures to specify the totals, saying that the Romans lost five thousand eight hundred in the country of the Hernici; that of the Aequian marauders who were roaming about and pillaging within the Roman borders two thousand four hundred were slain by Aulus Postumius, the consul; and that the rest of the expedition, which stumbled upon Quinctius as they were driving off their booty, got off by no means so lightly, for their killed amounted, so he says, with minute particularity, to four thousand two hundred and thirty.
When the army had returned to Rome, and the suspension of the courts was ended, the heavens were seen to blaze with numerous fires, and other [p. 21]
portents either were actually seen or were due to4
the illusions of the terror-stricken observers. To avert these alarms a three days' season of prayer was ordered, and during this period all the shrines were crowded with a throng of men and women beseeching the pardon of the gods.
After that the cohorts of the Latins and the Hernici were thanked by the senate for their energetic service and sent home. A thousand men from Antium who had come too late to help, when the battle was over, were dismissed, almost in disgrace.